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Are Uniform Tariffs Optimal?

  • Mary Amiti

This paper analyzes whether uniform tariffs give rise to the highest welfare compared with tariffs that either escalate or de-escalate along the value chain of production. We show that countries may be better off with de-escalating tariffs where tariff rates are higher on intermediate inputs and lower on final goods. The key point is that higher tariffs can encourage agglomeration of intermediate input suppliers and final goods producers in one country. With high tariffs on intermediate inputs, the benefits of close proximity to final goods producers may outweigh the benefits of locating according to comparative advantage, which is more likely when the share of intermediate inputs in producing final goods is high. De-escalating tariffs yield the highest welfare when the benefits of agglomeration are very high. These benefits of agglomeration accrue to both countries in the form of lower prices.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 04/72.

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Length: 19
Date of creation: 01 Apr 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:04/72
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  1. Bertrand, Trent J & Vanek, Jaroslav, 1971. "The Theory of Tariffs, Taxes, and Subsidies: Some Aspects of the Second Best," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(5), pages 925-31, December.
  2. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1975. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 64, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  3. Lloyd, P. J., 1974. "A more general theory of price distortions in open economies," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 365-386, November.
  4. Falvey, Rodney E., 1988. "Tariffs, quotas and piecemeal policy reform," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 177-183, August.
  5. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1982. "National and International Returns to Scale in the Modern Theory of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 389-405, June.
  6. Michalopoulos, Constantine, 1999. "Trade policy and market access issues for developing countries : implications for the Millennium Round," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2214, The World Bank.
  7. Masahisa Fujita & Paul Krugman & Anthony J. Venables, 2001. "The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262561476, June.
  8. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "History versus Expectations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 651-67, May.
  9. Lopez, Ramon & Panagariya, Arvind, 1992. "On the Theory of Piecemeal Tariff Reform: The Case of Pure Imported Intermediate Inputs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 615-25, June.
  10. Dixit, Avinash K & Grossman, Gene M, 1982. "Trade and Protection with Multistage Production," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 583-94, October.
  11. Arvind Panagariya & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Political-Economy Arguments for a Uniform Tariff," NBER Working Papers 3661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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